Russia seeking munitions from North Korea, Kirby says

“We remain concerned that North Korea will provide further support and Russia’s military operations against Ukraine and we have new information that Russia is actively seeking to acquire additional munitions from North Korea,” he said.

Russia is exhausting its stores of ammunition while locked in an inch-by-inch battle for territory in Ukraine’s south and east. The battle for Bakhmut, a town in the Donbas, has slowed any Russian advances, requiring forces to expend their ammo and artillery before reaching more consequential areas.

The assistance from North Korea would help Moscow’s forces refill its stockpiles ahead of an expected offensive by Ukraine in the spring.

In December, the Biden administration accused Pyongyang of providing battlefield rockets and missiles to the Wagner Group, a pro-Russian mercenary outfit that’s conducted the bulk of the fighting in Bakhmut.

The possible Russia-North Korea deal was allegedly brokered by Slovakian arms dealer Ashot Mkrtychev, leading the administration to sanction him on Thursday.

“Schemes like the arms deal pursued by this individual show that Putin is turning to suppliers of last resort like Iran and the DPRK,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement, using an acronym for the official name of North Korea: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.